Fire Emblem: Three Houses was released in July 2019 to critical acclaim. It took the standard Fire Emblem gameplay and mixed in Persona style school life mechanics as you took on the role of an instructor at a military academy. Now, a little less than a year later, Nintendo has released the last piece of DLC in Three Houses‘ season pass, entitled Cindered Shadows. This DLC pack adds in 4 new characters into the main campaign as well as a side story revolving around them. The side story is a bit of a mixed bag, but it seems a fair bit of effort went into seamlessly incorporating the new characters into the base campaign.
The side story is a 7 chapter campaign that only allows you to use specific units. Additionally, these units are not based at all around your save file from the base game. They all enter in pre-promoted (with the new characters having new unique classes) at the same level and the campaign’s difficulty takes this into account. For myself, this was a bit of a blessing and a curse as rather than use several evenly leveled characters, I tend to prefer to use just a few over leveled ones when I play Fire Emblem. So if you’re like me, this side story is going to take a lot more micromanagement than you’re probably used to. Even if you’re used to managing a lot of different characters, the game doesn’t really go easy on you. Most chapters have some kind of gimmick and also have several enemy reinforcements. There may only be seven chapters, but they’re pretty lengthy because of the gimmicks and reinforcements. This is something I don’t think serves the game well. While it’s definitely good to be given mission objectives that are variant from what you’ve played before, I think they could have been broken up into several, smaller chapters.
I mainly just wanted to use the new characters in the base game so I played through the side story on Normal/Classic difficulty as you have to finish the side story to unlock the new characters in the main campaign. Without Divine Pulse, the ability to rewind time, these levels would have been controller-through-the-window frustrating. With it, they were a breeze. I tend to try to avoid using Divine Pulse because I’m a bit of a prideful purist and want to play it old school where that wasn’t an option, but these chapters are so long that restarting one because a unit died near the end was out of the question for me. It puts the difficulty in a really awkward spot honestly and I imagine playing on Hard would just escalate matters.
In terms of the story though, it’s passable. It gives some more background on Byleth and the church, but it’s nothing really Earth shattering. And you’ll find out why its nothing Earth shattering when you go to use the units in the main campaign. When you do so, you’ll find that the base campaign and the side story contradict one another so it’s difficult to tell what is canon and what is not. This basically sealed the deal for me and made the side story a one time thing that I don’t plan on playing again. While the new mission objectives are interesting and novel, the chapters themselves are too long and the story is inconsequential. For me, the real benefit of this DLC was the additions to the base game.
Not only do you get four new characters for use in the main story, they also come with their four unique new classes. You may also reclass any existing character into these new classes provided they meet the requirements. The new classes aren’t game changing, but it’s fun to have a few new ones to play around with. What surprised me though is how well incorporated into the game the new characters are. They all have several characters they can have support conversations with and they have unique dialogue sprinkled throughout the story. They have dialogue for when they’re eating a meal with someone they have a connection with, they comment on the state of the plot when you talk to them during the explore portions of the game, and they have aged up appearances for part 2 of the story. They don’t really feel like DLC characters at all. It’s quite remarkable how Nintendo covered all the details to make sure they fit into the story. With them also comes a new area, Abyss, to explore when Byleth chooses to use their free time to do so. Abyss has a few new facilities that can be used, but I only found two of them useful and one was so useful it felt like cheating so I avoided it, but its all additional content that I wouldn’t have complained about if it was missing, so the inclusion is just a nice bonus.
Overall, I wouldn’t really be able to recommend Cindered Shadows based on the new campaign it offers because it’s too long and seemingly inconsequential to the main game’s plot. I would however, be able to recommend it as a way to pump some life back into the main story if you feel you’ve exhausted what it has to offer, as the new characters and mechanics are woven in wonderfully.
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Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Cindered Shadows Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
I wouldn’t really be able to recommend Cindered Shadows based on the new campaign it offers because it’s too long and seemingly inconsequential to the main game’s plot.